Team Drama in Kansas City Print E-mail
By Betsy Dynako and Jennifer Shahade   
April 18, 2007
High School Nationals co-champ Alexander Barnett. Photo Betsy Dynako

by Betsy Dynako and Jennifer Shahade

Spring was on pause in Kansas City, Mo over the weekend of April 12, 2007 but the chess clocks were running. A record breaking 1,448 players packed the playing hall for the National High School Chess Championship.  

The Championship section was stacked with high rated players. Edward R.Murrow stars IMs Salvijus Bercys and Alex Lenderman were seeds one and two. The section was super-strong, with 9 other masters, and 34 experts. Seven rounds were not enough to really narrow down a proper winner. Going into round 6, there was a 16-way tie for first place with 4.5/5. Suddenly the boards that had been surrounded by teens goofing off and socializing became quite serious as the players took their seats knowing that the IMs were no longer assured first and second place.

IMs from Edward R.Murrow: Salivjus Bercys and Alex Lenderman. Photos Betsy Dynako.

Edward R. Murrow team captain Alex Lenderman tied for first, giving up just one draw, to Vaishnav Aradhyula (2168) . Lenderman took the first place trophy on tiebreaks. He considers the following last round game as his best:

17-year-old high school senior Alexander Barnett (2256) of Maryland also tied for first. Just accepted into UMBC, Alex came into the tournament to win and to prove that he could take chess seriously. "The week before the tournament my mom was wondering if I really preparing... or if I was wasting money because all my mom ever saw me do is play other games." Because he can't play well without sleep and food, Alex went to bed every night at midnight and ordered eggs from room service before each morning round. The technique paid off: Alex tied for first with 6.5/7. His favorite game was a miniature against Matt Parry (2267): "This is one of my sexiest games ever," Alex said.

Michael Zhong. Photo Betsy Dynako

The sleeper winner of the event was expert rated Michael Zhong, who defeated three masters and gained over 60 rating points in the tournaments. Expect to read more about him in Alexander Betaneli's Chess Life Magazine report.

Catalina Foothills captain Landon Brownell and Ben Marmont take over to describe the intense competition for top team honors in the last round.

NM Landon Brownell from Catalina Hills High school

Heading into the last round, Catalina Foothills High School, from Tucson, AZ, trailed Edward R. Murrow High School, from Brooklyn, NY, by one point. We needed a perfect last round, but even that would not be sufficient if Murrow also had a perfect round. Foothills and Murrow have competed against each other every year since 2005, each time the championship coming down to the last round with some unusual event making the difference. Last year Murrow’s 4th board won a game in 7 moves to complete a perfect 4-0 last round sweep. The year before that, the entire tournament boiled down to cumulative tiebreak points.The stage was set, and what transpired over the next fifteen minutes was symbolic of national team competition.

At the start of the game I didn't know the standings but I figured that it was really close. 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 An impromptu decision. I have never really chosen a line against the English before so I decided to play a Queen's Indian position which is something I had been learning recently. 3.g3 b6 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.0–0 Be7 6.d4 Transposing back to a main line Queen's Indian position. Here I started to feel comfortable. 6...0–0 7.Nc3 Ne4 8.Qc2 I began to notice the Edward R. Murrow team and Robby taking a keen interest in my game, which made me start to think that my game was very important to the outcome of the tournament. 8...f5 8...Nxc3 is the main line, but I was unsure of how the line went. 9.Rd1 Bf6 a rare move and probably not very good. 10.Ne5! A strong move that forces concessions from black. 10...d5 11.cxd5 exd5 12.Qb3 Kh8 13.Bxe4?! A strange decision that only serves to weaken white's kingside. 13...fxe4 14.Bf4 g5!? A provocactive move. 15.Be3 c5 16.Qc2 Na6 16...Bg7! Securing the bishop from a potential Ng4 is better as white has nothing to do. 17.Ng4 c4 I feared 17...Bg7 18.dxc5 however black has 18...Qc8! Attacking the loose white knight. 18.Kg2 h5 19.Ne5 Kg7 20.a3 Nc7 21.Rf1 Ne6 22.Rad1 Qc7 23.Nb5 Qe7 24.f4 a6 25.Nc3 gxf4 26.gxf4 Kh7 27.Kh1 Rg8 A pivotal moment in the game Black had [27...Ng7! Heading to f5 with a significant advantage.] 28.Na4 Qc7 29.f5 Nxd4 30.Bxd4 Bxe5 31.Bxb6 Qd6 32.f6 Bxf6 33.e3 Rac8 34.Qxe4+ dxe4? [34...Kh6!µ] 35.Rxd6 Bg7 36.Rf7 Ba8? [36...Rc6] 37.Rf5 After a couple of bad moves I have found himself in a losing position. I must now find a way to swindle my opponent. 37...Rgf8 38.Rxh5+ Kg8 39.Rg5 Rc6 40.Bd4 Rf1+ 41.Kg2 Rxd6 42.Rxg7+ Kf8 43.Ra7 Rf5 Setting up a desparation checkmate. 44.Rxa8+ Kf7 45.Nc5 Which my opponent completely overlooks in time trouble. 45...Rg6+ 0–1

After this win, Edward R.Murrow and Catalina Foothills High tied for first team honors, though the latter team squeaked by on tiebreaks.

Some people may say that the youth of today have no drive, passion, or commitment now and days. That teens are lazy and unmotivated, they sit and play video games, text message and wait for everything to be handed to them. If those people witnessed the chess played by the chess players in Kansas City, MO last weekend they just might change their mind.

Photo Gallery by Betsy Dynako

McNally-Meervich (on Right) prevail in their last round against Chock-Francis to take first in the Bughouse compition

Kansas City skyline

Darwin Yang

Pre-game joking

It's important to protect against raining chess queens.


Championship section (three way tie for first, listed in order of tiebreaks)

1. IM Alex Lenderman
2. Alexander Barnett
3. Michael Zhong

1. Nick Graves MN 6.5
2. Joshua D. Miller WI 6.5
3. Davis Less Valdez TX 6.0

1. Dominique Myers NC 6.5
2. Alfonso Chie FL 6.5
3. John D. Leach MD 6.5

1. Mark A. Salita MD 7
2. Deborah Simoes MD 7
3. Dominis Johnson MI 6.5

1. Justin Bernard Braddy IL 6.5
2. Fedor M. Titov IL 6.5
3. Steven Jonathan Rand MO 6.0

1. Daniel Schwarz CA 11
2. Corey B Acor FL 11
3. Landon Brownell OR 11

Bug House team
Daniel McNally and Ilan Meerovich, both from Illinois

Biggest Upset
Molitoris, Caleb (1073) over Christopher Purdy (2016)

Championship teams
1. Catalina Foothills HS, Tucson, Az (12) 22.0 (94.5)
  BROWNELL, LANDON (5.5,2230)
SAVINE, PAVEL A (5.5,1923)  
2. Edward R. Murrow High School NY (7) 22.0 (90.0)
LENDERMAN, ALEX (6.5,2471)
MARTINEZ, SHAWN (5.5,2009)
FURMAN, MIKHAIL (4.0,1696)
GOMEZ, SAM E (4.0,1574)
SMITH, NILE (4.0,1792)  
3. Thomas Jefferson HS, Alexandria, VA (10) 18.0
LU, EDWARD J (5.5,2052)
PIERSON, EMMA (4.5,1701)
KHOJANDI, ARYAN (4.0,2054)
KANNAN, ATUL S (4.0,1595)
4. Hume Fogg, Nashville,TN (5) 18.0
KING, ALEXANDER B (5.5,2104)
ASHMUN, FRANK (4.0,1880)
NAIR, MADHU (4.0,1690)
5. Saratoga High School, Saratoga, CA (8) 17.5
CHOCK, DAVID (5.5,2110)
YOUNG, JEFF A (4.0,1910)
SHU, MARVIN (4.0,1822)
GARG, AARON (4.0,1846)